How did BrandsEye predict the US election results?

By Polycarp Kazaresam

BrandsEye, a South African social analytics company, correctly predicted both the vote to leave the EU in June's referendum and a Trump victory in the US election, but how did it do this? We quizzed CEO JP Kloppers. 

 

Can you tell me a bit about your background and how you came to possess your current role?

I am a leader and entrepreneur with over a decade of high-level management experience. I have spearheaded a number of successful ventures over the years, and currently head up the team at BrandsEye, where I have served as CEO since early 2013.

After completing my BSc in Engineering from the University of Cape Town, JP went on to found Eden Ventures, an independent business consulting firm for which I secured my own funding, and under which I launched a number of successful ventures.

Today, I remain at the helm of the rapidly growing BrandsEye team, combining my passion for people and technology to fuel business growth and provide unique, relevant audience insights for enterprises the world over.

What is the important of social analytics in African business?

Access to quality research data on the continent is often limited and when it is available it can be prohibitively expensive. Social media goes where clipboards can't, and offers a better, unsolicited view of local African issues. The availability of this data gives one access to millions of conversations –(based on user’s actual experiences towards a brand, product, or even a political party) all in real-time.  

Due to the limited availability of data on African consumer behaviour, and the cultural complexities of entering a new market - the failure rate for companies opening a new business in Africa is often quite high.

Social media market research helps eliminate a number of these risks by providing unique insights into user behaviour while also shedding light on key cultural nuisances. These insights can be used to develop targeted marketing campaigns, while also helping shape the product development strategy for those countries.

How did BrandsEye predict the US election results?

We started collecting social media data, particularly from the Twitter network, in July 2016. While early opinions do not greatly impact on actual voting behaviour, they do help to fine tune the data collection and tagging. In particular, given the electoral college system of determining the US President, it was critical to focus on the key battleground or swing states, where the outcome of the election would be decided.

Over the next few months, a large amount of data was collected, geolocated, and analysed for sentiment. All social media matching the candidates’ names, and mention of the US election itself, was collected. Data from outside the US was excluded. In total, over 37.6 million conversations from over 4 million authors were collected for analysis. BrandsEye’s geolocation algorithms identified in which state the author was located, and finally the conversations from the key battleground states were sent to the BrandsEye Crowd – an integrated, scaled crowdsourcing platform trained to accurately and quickly understand sentiment.

What advantages do BrandsEye’s methods have over traditional polling?

As with Brexit, accurate social media analysis had once again proven to be the best way to understand the voice of the people. That voice is a human voice.

As the world becomes more connected, differences between decision makers and their stakeholders are becoming more visible and volatile than ever. Traditional methods of understanding a broad group of people are breaking down because they can neither measure the intensity nor the commitment of the emotions. Sophisticated analysis of social media, however, offers a more reliable understanding of what is happening in today’s world.

 

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